In a dramatic move, bowing to international pressure President President Iajuddin Ahmed resigned his position of caretaker prime minister paving way for former Bangladesh central bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed to take over the government. Ahmed, in apparent collaboration with right-wing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Begum Khaleda Zia, had reduced the poorest nation in the world to a state of chaos and despondency prompting the EU, UN, and other non-government organizations to distance themselves from the discredited elections scheduled later this month. Many of Ahmed’s advisors had resigned in protest after he unilaterally deployed troops against the opposition protesting doctored electoral rolls, election commission malpractice, and sneaky appointment of the caretaker government by Zia in collusion with Ahmed.
Five members of the advisory council too oath and included a newspaper baron, two leading businessmen, former chairman of Security Exchange Commission, and a former anti-corruption commission official. Soon as he took office, new caretaker Fakhruddin Ahmed promised to appoint other members in the next few years and lifted the curfew in vogue but streets continued to be deserted. Before quitting, Ahmed also called off the discredited elections prompting the opposition to call off their blockade.
Independent newspapers praised the appointment of Fakhruddin as he was a man with “personal integrity” after an illustrious career and many say that his stature would fuse the broken nation together. The business community welcomed the recently announced state of emergency as means to restore order. However, his credentials aside, the economist’s task is cut out to bring about rapprochement between Awami League (AL) led 14-party Opposition and right wing coalition led by BNP. Already, AL attended the swearing-in ceremony but BNP did not leading to speculation that the Army had leaned on BNP to acquiesce to AL’s demand to postpone elections. The Army was apparently worried about the withdrawal of lucrative and prestigious opportunities to participate in UN peacekeeping duties.
As a preventive measure, over 2500 people were detained across the nation in a bid to restore calm including 20 people including some local politicians in western and northern Bangladesh. In addition, troops and police raided homes of some political aide suspected criminal activities but without arresting any of them. But a former Awami League party lawmaker Kamal Majumder, was arrested jailed in the capital but police declined to say what the charges against him was.
No new date has been set for elections but before that step, a national consensus has to evolve to agree on norms for elections. Many worry that the whole exercise to correct the electoral polls would take several years to complete and it is questionable whether the political parties would be willing to wait that long.